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First; an unpleasant tickling feeling on his face as though someone is moving a feather lightly across it. Taehyung scrunches up his nose in discomfort and hears a giggle at the edges of his consciousness. Second; voices in a hushed murmur that, half asleep, hover just beyond his comprehension.

“You owe me six free shots at Barcode.”

“Fucking fine, but are you sure that - ”

“Do you see clothing? Look.”

“I’ve been trying not to.”

Third; awareness. Faces, blurrily familiar, swim into view as Taehyung blinks open eyelids that feel as though they are weighted down by lead. There is an arm slung over his ribs that is - upon further reflection - attached to a body pressed up uncomfortably against his back. The arm is heavy but not as heavy as the head pillowed on his bicep. He can’t feel his fingers.

“Good morning sunshine.” Jimin stands over him with a smile too wide and too toothy to really be considered reassuring. He holds a swiffer duster in the same discomfiting way that dentists will sometimes hold their tools, which explains the soft tickling sensation that dragged Taehyung from unconsciousness.

Namjoon’s face joins Jimin’s in his periphery, looking slightly abashed but mostly annoyed. “You and your boy toys need to get up before we put you out with the trash.”

“Mm you can’t do that. S’my house.” Taehyung’s voice comes out still thick with sleep and he hears muffled laughter from somewhere to the left of his field of vision but can’t be bothered to check who it is.

“Yes, but it’s also my house and I pay for Netflix.”

“Don’t threaten him with Netflix, he’ll just do whatever he pleases anyways and then crash at mine and put his cold toes all over my back.” Jimin sounds genuinely concerned and if Taehyung weren’t still mostly comatose he would passionately argue against the accusation - he and his feet are a delight to have in bed - but as it is, he’s not quite sure he can safely open his mouth without being sick.

“I warned you this would happen if you came over today. I live in a house full of degenerates.” Namjoon says to someone, presumably the same person from earlier, who stays just out of sight.

“Just the one; degenerate.” Taehyung manages to wriggle out of the man-sandwich he seems to be in and stands up. This is the wrong move for several reasons, including but not limited to a dizzying pounding in his head and a cold breeze around his nether regions, but Kim Taehyung has No Shame™ and therefore the realization that he is standing naked in his living room in full view of at least one stranger does little to detract from his poise.

“And this degenerate has to stand under hot water until he feels like a human again.”

“Taetae” He hears Jimin whine behind him. “What do we do about the guys on the couch?”

 

 

Presumably, as two heads are better than one, Jimin and Namjoon figure out a way to rid the apartment of Taehyung’s one-time paramours. The loft appears empty when he finally emerges from the bathroom with dripping hair and feeling marginally less icky.

There is a particular smell in the air that Taehyung usually associates with lazy fall mornings in his favourite diner squished into a booth with Jimin and Jungkook.

“Right, which one of you plebeians enslaved Martha Stewart?” The towel falls into Taehyung’s eyes as he enters the kitchen and as a consequence he nearly jumps out of his skin when the voice that answers him is an unfamiliar one.

“Funnily enough, I’ve never been accused of kidnapping any culinary celebrities before.”

Taehyung whips the towel off his head. The first thing he realizes, is that the man who is currently holding Taehyung’s Darth Vader spatula is incredibly pretty - Namjoon’s sailor moon apron has never not looked ridiculous before now - and the second thing is that unless he showed up in the last hour or so, this man has most likely seen his dick.

Taehyung opens his mouth to respond, and nothing happens. He glances around quickly as though waiting for Namjoon to appear out of thin air with a marching band to declaim in song over the momentous occasion that is Kim Taehyung being rendered speechless.

“Joonie and your friend went out.” The handsome stranger in Taehyung’s kitchen says helpfully and Taehyung does the only logical thing under the circumstances. He retreats, because Taehyung has No Shame™ unless of course he is viciously hungover and besieged with beauty when he is least expecting it. His fingers itch for a piece of charcoal; his latest artistic weapon of choice.

This is the first time Taehyung meets Kim Seokjin, and he quite nearly forgets it. He must be forgiven on the grounds of possibly still being slightly stoned.

 

 

 

“So you guys were betting on whether or not I’d bag a threesome? Shouldn’t I get some of the profits for helping you win?”

Taehyung has to at least pretend to be annoyed, as he does every time his friends use his debaucherous habits as a means of gambling.

“Fine. 70/30.” Jimin grumbles.

“50/50.”

“60/40 final offer.”

“Fine. Hey Hyung, who was that guy in our kitchen earlier?”

Namjoon looks up in surprise. “My first year roommate, back when I lived in res. Had you never met before?”

“Nope. He’s cute.”

“Paws off, fiend.”


 

 

The next time Taehyung encounters Seokjin he takes slightly more notice. Auditions for the PMTT (Polite Mechanicals Theatre Troupe; almost never referred to by its real name which is generally agreed to be embarrassing but almost blasphemous to change after having existed nearly as long as the University itself) have finally finished and the team of young thespians for the coming school year have been selected.

The last days of summer are winding down; soft oranges and purples spreading across the sky like the velvety skins of peaches and plums, and Taehyung and Minho find  themselves up in the attic of the Fine Arts Building, elbow deep in costumes that seem half made out of dust.

“Has the theme been decided? Because I’m feeling this hat.” Minho, having delved further into the uncharted depths of costume narnia, turns around and Taehyung finds himself suddenly taking part in a staring contest with what appears to be some kind of feathered creature.

“Wait, is that a real - ”

“On second thought, I don’t want to know.” Minho quickly removes the hat and places it back in whatever wormhole it came from.

“I think they said the theme is disney.” Taehyung pulls a long, slightly straggly red wig out of a cardboard box and considers it momentarily before tossing it away.

“Eh fuck it, do you wanna just make our own shit?”

“Way ahead of you buddy. Picture this; a skirt made out of that gold and green material we found in your aunt’s house last Christmas with a wider bit at the end that I could embroider to look like fins. Maybe some sequins…”

“Sounds sick, you gonna give it to me?”

“Are you crazy? You can’t be Ariel, I’m already halfway there!” Taehyung gave one of the locks of his hair, newly dyed a brilliant red, a tug. “Be like, my Sebastian or something.”

Taehyung and Minho return to the theatre triumphantly, each bearing a box of the salvageable items, only to find the space already overflowing with costume materials.

“What is this betrayal? Hyung!” Bogum turns guiltily at Taehyung’s yell, the giant pirate hat on his head successfully blocking the face of whoever he was talking to.

“I’m sorry Tae, I forgot we put most of the stuff from last year under the stage.”

“So ixnay on the taxidermied birds we found in the storage space?”

Bogum, resolutely vegetarian and PETA inclined, blanches and Taehyung feels a little bad. “Don’t worry we didn’t bring them down.”

“Hey what did the taxidermied bear say when someone offered him some honey?” Says the person behind Bogum in the exact tone of voice that your dad uses when he’s about to tell an awkward bad joke at your birthday party and humiliate you.

Bogum shifts aside slightly and Tae catches sight of a familiar face, one he’s able to appreciate slightly more now with the benefit of sobriety and some pretty flattering stage lights.

“Hey! Martha Stewart!” He crows loudly and the other man narrows his eyes slightly before recognition crosses his face.

“Threesome! Nice to see you, how do you know Bogum?”

“This is my third year in PMTT.” Taehyung beams and were it anyone else they would have been shamefaced and blushing at the mortifying moniker. As it is, Bogum looks embarrassed on his behalf, mouthing “threesome” and seeming very much like he could have done without the information.

“So, what did the taxidermied bear say when someone offered him some honey?” Taehyung asks.

“Oh, right! He said, no thanks, I’m stuffed.” And Bogum’s friend bursts into peals of laughter, the sound reminding Taehyung of windshield wipers.

Everyone within earshot groans, but Taehyung cackles.

“I don’t know why I never thought of introducing you two before now.” Bogum says in wonderment. “You have the exact same sense of humour. Tae this is Kim Seokjin, he was in PMTT when I was in my first year but has since moved on to grander things.”

“The only thing grand about that fried chicken commercial was sheer amount of chicken I got to eat.” Seokjin says with a smile in his voice and Taehyung has a sudden thought that he would enjoy hearing more of that warm tone.

“You should come to our party!” He says suddenly, glancing to Bogum for approval because as a sophomore he doesn’t really have the power to make changes to the guest list. Bogum shrugs as if to say ‘why not’.

“Really?”

“Sure, you’re a former member and all; a PMTT alumni!”

“When is it?”

“It’s next week and it’s disney themed so if you come without a costume we’ll throw you out.”

“Deal.”

 

 

 

The studio and all the surrounding hallways are silent with less than two weeks to go until the first day of the semester and Taehyung is taking advantage of the peace and quiet while it lasts. He enjoys the atmosphere of a busy workshop class; everyone working and the constant rush of water from the sink and soft scritching of pencils, but solitude is a luxury he’s learned to appreciate in the years since moving away from his two rambunctious - though utterly lovable - younger siblings.

In front of him across the easel is an unfinished watercolour; a field of poppies. It is incredibly different from Taehyung’s usual style - a heavy, powerful mixture of abstract colour and metallic shine that hangs all over the walls in his parents’ house for them to gaze at in quiet bafflement mixed with pride - but his advisor’s words about taking risks and stepping outside of his comfort zone have been ringing in the back of his mind for the better part of three months and he’ll be damned if he’ll turn down a challenge.

At first, he’d brushed off the accusation because after all wasn’t he Kim Taehyung; king of spontaneity and daft ideas? Wasn’t he the first person to try that weird food combo? Wasn’t he the one to take all the weird, twisted roles that no one wanted and somehow mould them into sympathetic characters onstage?

Then it had struck him. Simply by trying to desperately to avoid falling into the dangerous trap of normalcy, there was a whole world he was leaving unexplored. Sure maybe tight clothing and starbucks and realism weren’t his cup of tea, but he was never going to know until he tried them. Although, Jimin was never going to let him live down The Leather Pants Disaster of 2016 so there was at least one of the three that would have been better left untouched.

Taehyung is adding detail to a petal, face pressed so closely to the canvas that he feels sure there is a tiny smudge of colour across his nose, when

“Hard at work or hardly working?”

Taehyung jerks backwards and opens his mouth to tell Hoseok exactly what’s what, and the clever retort that he had prepared falls to the ground along with the easel. And his dignity because fuck, now he’s absolutely sure he has paint on his face.

“Oops. Sorry for startling you.” Jimin pokes his head out from behind the doorframe. “I thought that when you said you were going to go paint you meant - well - to be fair you did leave with that American girl.”

“Park Jimin! Some of us do not have a one track mind.” Taehyung exclaims in mock anger. Now that he’s sure nothing has been irrevocably damaged, the whole situation seems vaguely funny to him, especially the guilty look on Jimin’s face. “Two track maybe.” He continues thoughtfully.

“Anyways we’re kidnapping you.”

And Taehyung goes along quietly because there is nothing worse than being physically dragged by two unfairly muscular guys still sweaty from dance practice.

Taehyung can remember a time when Jimin’s favourite place to hang out was Taehyung and Namjoon’s living room; watching Miyazaki films and drinking cheap soju.

“It’s so much better than living on campus, you don’t even understand how lucky you are.” He’d said fervently and often, forgetting that once upon a time they had been freshman roomies. “Plus everyone thinks Taemin hyung is so perfect but he kept a fully grown duck in the kitchen sink for three weeks last semester.”

“Apartment cheater.” Taehyung mutters resentfully to Jimin’s back as the sticky humidity of the residence in summer washes over him. If he’s being fair, he understands. Taehyung’s place is superior to Hoseok’s in every way, except for one crucial thing. Hoseok’s dorm room houses one Jeon Jungkook.

“Hyung!” And suddenly Jungkook has leapt up off the couch like some kind of cat, light and nimble on its feet, and he and Hoseok are engaged in the most complicated chest bump/bro hug that Taehyung has ever witnessed. It seems to mutate every time he sees them.

“Sometimes I forget you guys are frat bros just by virtue of our friendship and then I see something like that and I question my sanity all over again.”

“Shut up and play GTA with us.” Hoseok replies, tugging the other three towards the couch, one of Jungkook’s hands resting comfortably on the curve of Jimin’s ass.

Taehyung is a terrible player and Jimin is worse so before long they’re making sangria in the kitchen and leaving Hoseok and Jungkook to battle each other; furious string of swear words leaving their mouths at complete odds with the loving fist bumps they exchange before every game.

“Just how much time did you spend here this summer Jiminie?” Taehyung asks, noticing the ease and familiarity with which Jimin moves around the kitchen, taking down a pitcher and rummaging for wine that isn’t cheap and acidic.

“Enough. It's your own fault for introducing us.” His tone is sharp and defensive and Taehyung has to place both hands out in a placating gesture.

“That wasn’t an accusation. I’m happy if you’re happy, you know that. Are you happy?”

Taehyung doesn’t miss the uncertain glance Jimin casts towards the other room where Jungkook is keysmashing his way to victory looking like the world’s most adorable douchebag; snapback and all.

“Yeah. I’m happy.”

 

Hoseok’s girlfriend Hyojung comes over after work, stepping out of her heels with a sigh of relief and padding over to curl herself into Hoseok’s lap. They are all tipsy in that comfortable, holiday way and all the windows are open to capitalize on the evening crossbreezes.

“If one more drunken asshole makes a pass at me at that golf club I’m quitting.” Hyojung grouses and Hoseok drops comforting little kisses on the crown of her head.

Taehyung knows how to read a room and third wheeling - or fifth wheeling really - isn’t his idea of a good time. Though it’s a little early, he gets up and excuses himself to work. To his surprise, Jungkook clambers unsteadily to his feet as well.

“I got somewhere to be as well.” He says and presses an absent-minded kiss to the pout of Jimin’s lips. “Lets meet up at Barcode later Jiminie.”

“Hyung.” Jimin corrects quietly, but it sounds like defeat.

 

 

 

Barcode, where Namjoon works - only three nights per week now that he has his radio production internship at TJB - is roughly twenty minutes on foot from Taehyung and Namjoon’s apartment in the opposite direction from school, making them pretty much ideally situated. The small seamstress’ where Taehyung clocks in 20 hours a week is just downstairs, an incredibly lucky find. Sometimes he feels like his life is kind of surreal, things just seeming to fall into his lap. It’s not as if he doesn’t work hard, but sometimes it feels as though there’s someone up there looking out for him.

When he moved out of the residence, Taehyung wasn’t particularly picky about where he lived. Of course he doesn’t want to live in a dump or anything but the amount of furniture and surrounding neighbourhood aren’t as important to him as they are to other people. That being said, the expression on his mother’s face when she had first observed the clean, upscale building and the soft pastel coloured couches and throw rugs - most of which were Namjoon’s but she didn’t need to know that - had made Taehyung feel good.

“And you can really afford this?” She’d asked, running her fingers over the filmy curtains.

“Sure! With what you give me every month and what I pull at Darn and Dash I make up my half of the rent easily.”

Taehyung’s mother had folded her lips into a thin line. “You don’t have to work during the semester. Your dad and I can pick up the slack.”

“It’s fine! I like working there. It’s really quiet most of the time so I can work on costumes for PMTT or even schoolwork.”

They’d changed the subject after that to discuss what projects Taehyung had been working on and whether he was eating enough and how he liked his professors but he’d felt the unmistakable sinking sensation he usually associated with having done something wrong.

For the most part, Taehyung lived a carefree existence. It wasn’t - as most people assumed - that he didn’t have the same worries and anxieties as everyone else. It was simply that he chose only to focus on them when there was something he could do about them.

There were times however, where he and his parents engaged in what he had dubbed a “guilt-off”. Having been supported since childhood in whatever creative pursuits he desired, finding himself painting murals when other kids were studying, Taehyung often felt that he could be contributing more and giving back to his family. They, conversely, not being as well off as the families of some of his classmates felt the same guilt over not being able to assist him fully.

“What are you doing?” A voice drags Taehyung out of his reverie. He is sitting at the bar in the midst of altering a piece of fabric to resemble scales.

“Making a tail.” He responds shortly, knowing without looking that the speaker is Namjoon, sleeves rolled up to make the running wolf tattooed across his left shoulder visible. He swears up and down that it’s a chick magnet but Taehyung remains unconvinced. “Pass the sequins?”

“I can see that. I meant, what are you doing making a tail in a bar? Aren’t you working tonight?” Namjoon’s tone is exasperated as he obediently presses the jar of sequins into Taehyung’s waiting hand, but Taehyung knows better than to take him seriously.

“Auntie told me to get out and enjoy the last Friday night of the summer.”

Put that away and go to a club or something. You’re young, so act like it! What I wouldn’t give to be 20 again. Taehyung’s boss had scolded him. He’d smiled and agreed to go out and have fun.

“So you brought your work with you?”

“Pretty much. I thought it was a fair compromise.”

“What’s this for?” Namjoon pinches some of the shimmery green material between his fingers.

“The PMTT party to welcome all the freshies.” Taehyung traps his bottom lip between his teeth as he concentrates on a loose embroidery thread. His specialty is the satin stitch but a chain stitch is better for his purposes. He doesn’t know why he makes his own life so difficult but he has a feeling that when the costume is finished it will be worth it. “Speaking of which, I invited your hot cousin.”

“My what?”

“You know, the one who made me pancakes to congratulate me on my threesome a couple weeks ago?”

“Those pancakes were not congratulatory and I- wait a second. Seokjin hyung isn’t my cousin! Why would you even think that?” Namjoon stops his lazy wiping down of the bar to gape at Taehyung, ignoring a pointed look from Jihyun that hollers get back to work in irritated italics.

“You guys have the same family name so I guess I got confused.” Taehyung shrugs.

“What does that have to do with anything?”

“Well, generally  people in the same family have the same family name. Kim Seokjin, Kim Namjoon.”

“No, I mean- look, Tae what’s your family name?”

“Kim.” Taehyung says, without a hint of hesitation. Then, “oh. I see your point.”

“Your mind works in truly mysterious ways.” Namjoon remarks in bemusement, finally striding off down the bar to do his actual job.

“That it does.” Replies a faintly amused voice behind Taehyung. He swings around on his stool and looks up into Jimin’s grinning face. “What did you do this time?”

“Jiminie, how common is the name ‘Kim’?” Taehyung asks in lieu of answering.

“Most common surname in Korea, why?”

Taehyung turns back to his sewing with a snort.

 

 

As the minutes tick ever closer to 1AM and it becomes clear that Jungkook is not going to show up, Taehyung is enticed to stow his needlework in his satchel and move onto the dance floor with Jimin and what he lacks in sensual grace - he still doesn’t understand how Jimin’s hips can move like that - he makes up for in enthusiasm.

When they find themselves dirty dancing with a girl between their bodies, Taehyung realizes that Jimin must be drunk; the telltale pink flush riding high on his cheekbones. He has a clear view of the door over her bare golden shoulder so Taehyung notes every new arrival with interest.

Barcode is just starting to fill up with college kids, back in town for the start of the semester, and locals out for a good time while the good weather lasts. The girl is gone by this point which is fine because if she’d stayed Jimin would have ended making out with her and then whining about it later - I don’t even like girls, they’re too soft - and for his part, Taehyung has spotted someone much more interesting.

“Hey Jiminie let's play a game.” Taehyung grabs Jimin by the hips to stop him grinding with a ripped guy that used to live down the hall in the residence. The muscled casanova gives Taehyung a look that is probably supposed to be intimidating but he isn’t fazed. The guy has hated Taehyung since he propositioned him at a truly disgusting kegger in freshman year and got turned down.

“Sure.” Jimin slurs good naturedly, not seeming to notice or care that he’s been removed from the dance floor.

“See that guy?” Taehyung points to the leather jacketed newcomer who has now moved to the bar and is speaking to Namjoon; presumably ordering a drink. Jimin nods, a little wobbly but clearly intrigued.

 

 

“C’mon guys find someone else to play with. Stop harassing my friend.” Namjoon brings Leather Jacket another drink and narrows his eyes at Taehyung and Jimin who are plastered to either side.

“Hey! I ordered a Green Ghost. Hyung, this is clear favouritism.”

“Ok first of all, Yoongi actually pays for his drinks,” Jimin makes a small ooh sound and Taehyung glares at him because what is this? Fucking high school? “And secondly, I told you I don’t even know what a Green Ghost is! Are you sure you didn’t make it up?”

“Gin, green chartreuse and lime juice. All of which are things you have. You’re just mad at me because of the jello thing last week.”

Namjoon sighed heavily. “I just don’t understand why -”

“I told you I wanted to feel like -”

“Filling up a bath with jello is not a good simulation of being in the womb! Now go away and stop scaring off the paying customers.”

Leather Jacket - Yoongi - grins suddenly, transforming his face from hot-but-mildly-threatening to still-hot-but-mostly-precious. “Chill out Joon, I like your friends. No one’s ever used a pick up line that bad on me before and not been embarrassed.”

Jimin throws his head back, exhaling sweet, bell toned peals of laughter and Taehyung does not miss Yoongi looking at the smooth, exposed skin of his neck. Oh well, he tried. ‘Optimus Fine’ has definitely worked for him before, but not many people can beat a flushed and tipsy Jimin. Especially a flushed, tipsy and giggling Jimin.

“So how come you have all these gorgeous friends that I’ve never met Hyung? Where do you hide them?”

Namjoon snorts. “I keep them away from you because you’re incorrigible. Yoongi hyung and I work together at TJB. I didn’t think we were close enough for me to expose him to you.”

“I am a delight I’ll have you know.” Taehyung greatly resents the way Jimin snorts in response to this. “So you’re majoring in radio production?”

Yoongi shakes his head. “No, my uncle is a senior producer at TJB so I’ve been working there for a few years. I started by just helping out but once I learned the ropes they took me on as a junior producer.”

“So what’s your major then? Computer science? Because you make my software turn into -”

“Tae!”

“Sorry.”

“It’s music actually,” Yoongi says, almost shyly. “Piano.” He says at the exact same time as another voice and everyone turns to look in surprise at Jimin who flushes darkly.

“Jiminie is majoring in psychology where they train you to be attuned to the smallest of details. You probably scratched your nose in three/four time and from that he was able to deduce -”

“No, actually.” Jimin cuts in and will Taehyung ever get to finish a full sentence or is it just one of those nights? “Your hands - um - you just look like - like someone who would play piano.”

Jimin is stammering and it’s pretty goddamn adorable and Taehyung is about ready to admit defeat because he does know how to acknowledge when he’s beaten and Jimin has slid his hand under Yoongi’s, infusing his pale cheeks with the barest hint of colour though his expression hasn’t changed. And then,

“Yoongi?”

And it’s like one of those moments in movies where everyone goes quiet and turns around at the same time in horror except there’s really nothing to be horrified about besides the fact that there is a beautiful girl with her hair in cute braids standing behind them and Jimin is still holding Yoongi’s hand.

“Sorry I’m late.” Says the girl.

“That’s ok Noona.” Says Yoongi and he doesn’t look guilty or caught-in-the-act or anything but he does disentangle his fingers.

“So, music major huh? You had me at cello.” Taehyung jokes and it’s terrible and he deserves every groan he gets and probably also the smack from Jimin on the arm which is a little harder than it would have been had he been a little less drunk or a little less embarrassed, but after that things are slightly less awkward.

Introductions are made all around, and Yoongi’s maybe-definitely girlfriend, Yoon Bora, is really nice and buys them all drinks and even whoops Taehyung’s ass at pool (which isn’t altogether difficult to do considering his hand eye coordination and depth perception leave a lot to be desired).

Yoongi and his probably-decidedly girlfriend leave after about half an hour and then Jimin gets well and truly drunk.

 

 

Under normal circumstances, Taehyung likes the stairs that lead up to his apartment. They are curved into a spiral and a nice sunny yellow and in the summer vines creep around them and turn the whole back half of the building into a set prop for an old English movie.

After carrying Jimin up at three in the morning, Taehyung revokes every nice thing he’s ever said about the stairs.

“Jesus Chimchim for someone so tiny you weight a whole lot. I just don’t understand, where does it all go?” Taehyung dumps the inert and mumbling Jimin onto his least comfortable couch - hah - and rubs his back resentfully. “Why did you even drink that much? Random strangers in bars having girlfriends doesn’t detract from your sex appeal. If you wanted to get laid, why didn’t you just go to Kookie’s place or something?”

Jimin looks up at Taehyung, eyes shining in the half light peeking in through the window from the street outside. His lips are slightly parted and his hair falls over his forehead in a way that makes him look suddenly very young and vulnerable. And then he bursts into tears. Oh. Oh.

Taehyung reflects back very carefully on what he’s said in the past five minutes. “Is this because I called you heavy? Is it because - oh christ is it something to do with Jungkook?”

A nod; slightly floppy and very dejected.

Taehyung tries to think of everything he knows about Jeon Jungkook, which admittedly is a lot, but he can’t bring something to mind terrible enough to be the cause of this torrential outpouring of misery. He waits until Jimin has regained some semblance of calm, patting his back in small, soothing circles.

“I thought things were going well. Do I have to beat him up? Because I promise I’ll try but the kid is built like Arnold Schwarzenegger.”

Jimin chuckles weakly. “They were for a while, we weren’t seeing other people and he was over almost every day, but then he met this pre-med student at a party and-” His lower lip wobbles.

“Oh Chim.” Taehyung takes a deep breath and pulls Jimin into his arms, letting his tears soak through his shirt. He knows better than anyone that Jungkook isn’t looking for a relationship, but he hadn't realized the extent of Jimin’s feelings for their friend. “I’m a terrible platonic soulmate. You can hit me as much as you want. I’m so sorry.”


 

 

 

“Whoah Taehyung what are you doing out of water?” The guy passing by - Jisoo or Joohyuk or something - with what is no doubt some heavily spiked punch, says with a smirk. He’s attractive in that tall annoying way.

“It was too current.” Taehyung replies absently and hears Minho suck air in through his teeth in a hiss.

“Pun game not on point Tae.”

“I know I know but I’m scoping.” Taehyung cranes his neck to peer through all the smoke - seriously who thought dry ice was a good idea for a small bash in the theatre - but he doesn’t see Kim Seokjin or his broad shoulders anywhere.

“Trying to see if that guy you invited showed up?”

“Yeah. Looks like it’s a no. Oh well, there are some cute freshies.”

“Oh gross Tae.” And Minho is like 24 so the freshman must seem like children to him but after Taehyung sees one of them trying to fit an entire doughnut into his mouth he has to agree.

They stay on the couches for a bit, getting steadily drunker; Taehyung in his Ariel costume and Minho as Jasmine. They get mistaken for girls exactly 6 times, 7 if you count the one when Taehyung went up alone to get them more punch, which he does because he’s petty like that.

“Save me.” Pants Bogum, appearing from nowhere looking like he’s been attacked by a swarm of bees. Of course he’s Prince Charming because some girl in Psychics last year went and ranted all over the PMTT facebook page after watching their performance of Into the Woods and inflated Bogum’s ego more than is probably healthy.

“Yes hello, nice to see you too. You’ve got a little something…” Taehyung points to his neck. Minho fights giggles beside him.

“Hi, nice costumes, I’ll be seeing you.” And, tossing one end of his tasseled scarf over his shoulder to hide the amorous marks of some poor smitten PMTT newbie, Bogum is gone.

Taehyung finds him, some time later, chatting to a Snow White by the snacks, the strobe from the dance floor pulsing across their faces giving them an otherworldly glow.

“There you are Taehyung. This is Hyeri, Theatre major.”

Snow White turns to smile at him and she mostly looks like a sweet little freshman with her short dark hair and endearing overbite but then the red skirt of her costume cuts off mid thigh and she has legs for days and it’s all very confusing for Taehyung.

“Visual arts major.” He says because that is how introductions are made in college. “Do you want to dance?” Because that is how hook ups are initiated in college. It’s a little hard to dance with a tail but Taehyung does pretty well all things considered and Hyeri is tall in her heels but she fits nicely into the hollow of Taehyung’s body.

They are about to move off the dance floor in search of a different kind of entertainment, possibly in the props closet, when Minho finds them.

“Dude your prince is here.”

“Wait what?” Taehyung pauses because it’s most definitely after midnight and no one shows up to a party after midnight unless they feel like sifting through a horde of drunk and sweaty college students but Minho is right and there he is.

Black hair, white shirt, pretty face and god knows where the confetti is coming from but now Taehyung feels like he’s in an early 2000’s teen rom com as he stares across the room at the Eric to his Ariel; Kim Seokjin.

“I’ll catch you later.” Taehyung presses a chaste kiss to Hyeri’s soft cheek. She, to her credit, doesn’t look too disappointed.

 

 

“Did Namjoon hyung tell you?”

“Tell me what?”

“My costume. We’re matching.”

Seokjin smiles ever so slightly as though he has a secret and shrugs. “Happy coincidence I guess. Do you want to get a drink?”

“I’m sorry about being so late by the way.” Seokjin says later. “I drove home to see my mum and my car broke down on the side of the highway.”

“Oh shit that doesn’t sound like a good time. How far away were you?”

“Suwon.”

“So definitely not walking distance.”

“Definitely not. But hey, do you want to hear a disney joke to make up for it?”

It strikes Taehyung suddenly that all of the things he knows about Seokjin are the kinds of small quirks that you typically only find out after maybe a couple weeks of hanging out. He compiles a list in his head. Seokjin is Namjoon’s friend, he has a mother in Suwon, he tells terrible jokes, makes a mean pancake and looks fantastic cosplaying as Prince Eric. The normal things like major, age and heck, even favourite colour are all mysteries.

“Fuck yes I want to hear a disney joke.”

“Ok what do you call it when a mermaid attacks from above?”

“Uh, flying fish?”

“An Ariel attack.” And his laugh is incredibly silly for someone so handsome but somehow it works.

“You haven’t even said anything about my costume yet.” Taehyung pouts.

“Ok now you’re just fishing for compliments.”

Taehyung has to admit he’d walked right into that one. He shivers slightly - a shell bra isn’t exactly the warmest of outfits even for a night in late August - and feels something warm drop around his shoulders.

“I don’t need it. This shirt is pretty warm.”

And fuck if Taehyung doesn’t love it when guys give him their sweaters and they smell sweet and just a little spicy and the sleeves are just a little too long.

 

 

The highlight of the evening is pushing Kim Seokjin up against a wall and kissing him until they are both dizzy, lips swollen and slick with spit and Taehyung can feel the way Seokjin’s heart races under his careful fingertips pressed against his chest.

The problem is that Taehyung has the attention span of a spaniel when he’s drunk - or actually pretty much all the time - and more drinks find their way into his waiting hands and more people spin him into their arms on the dance floor and more lips find his and then finally everyone is streaming out of the theatre and across the grass on their way to bicycles and ubers and Taehyung is voiding his system of alcohol into the gutter.

“I promise I’m usually a lot more cool than this.” He chokes out between sips of water.

“Don’t worry about it. You probably don’t even want to hear about all the times I had to babysit Namjoon in freshman year.”

“No probably not.” Taehyung lets his head drop tiredly onto Seokjin’s shoulder. “Would it be presumptuous of me to ask you to take me home? Everything is spinning.”

“Very presumptuous.” Says Seokjin but he hoists Taehyung - tail and all - onto his back nonetheless.